I arrived in Barcelona after having spent nearly a week in the city of Madrid. Since I had been in Spain for a period of time thus far, I thought I knew what to expect. Enchanting architecture, rich history and a distinct culture were all on my radar. However, little did I know how much Barcelona distinguished itself from the “other” capital. Recognized as the capital city of Catalunya, a part of Northern Spain that has its own traditions, cuisine and language, Barcelona is nothing like its metropolitan sister. The dynamic neighborhoods within Barcelona lent themselves to extremely different atmospheres. From quaint boutiques and museums in the Gothic Quarter, hipster restaurants along the beach all the way to an art-lover’s dream in Park Güell. No matter which area you think you identify with, you’re sure to find a niche in each region that will make you wish you were here to stay. It is magnificent to walk through the city and surround yourself in a place that so strongly highlights itself on a map for it’s ability to integrate the new with the old. Gorgeous, historical buildings are surrounded by up-and-coming attractions and rather than denying the evolution, the citizens embrace it. To make sure you get the most out of your visit in Barcelona, here are the
Even after just a minute in Barcelona, you’ll be awe-sturck by artist Gaudi’s influence. In 1900, Count Eusebi Güell hired Gaudi to develop a tiny neighborhood of manicured houses and detailed landscapes for the wealthy. However, it ended up being unsuccessful and went unused for years until it was opened as a public park in 1922. As you walk along the crooked pathways, take note of the intricate mosaic designs and fairytale-like buildings. The view of the city isn’t too shabby either.
Casa Mila & Casa Batlló
If you want even more of Gaudi, you can find more of his work at Casa Mila and Casa Casa Batlló. Fascinating structures with exquisite attention to detail are captivating to see amongst the current city landscape. While you can buy a ticket to view the houses from the inside, I found it to be anough just to witness them from the street.
La Sagrada Familia
This massive Roman Catholic church located in the heart of Barcelona was designed by, you guessed it, Gaudi. From the outside, it appears as almost a dripping sand castle towering above the surrounding areas. Inside, it is a whole other world. Stained glass windows flood the atrium with color while the large steeples create an eerie, yet beautiful soundboard for the organ music. Give yourself plenty of time to explore nooks and crannies here.
Parc de Montjuïc
Similar to the National Mall in D.C., Parc de Montjuïc is surrounded by museums and is a refreshing escape from the noisy city streets. Even if you don’t step inside one of the buildings, the view of the surrounding sea and relaxing people watching is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. You’re sure to see various performers along the walkway or locals playing sports.
As the tallest mountain in the Serra de Collserola, Tibidabo offers spectacular sights of Barcelona. A quick funicular ride up is the easiest way to reach the summit, but there’s also a designated hiking trail up the mountain if you’re feeling adventurous. At the top, you can step inside the Sagrat Cor church for more breathtaking views, or test your courage on one of the amusement parks rides that hang over the mountain. Don’t worry, plenty of snacks and restrooms are up there, too!
Mercat de la Boqueria
Located in the bustling La Rambla strip, Mercat de la Boqueria is one of the most notable markets in the city. From freshly caught fish to homemade baked goods and all the way to candied fruits, this is the perfect stop to refuel and experience the unique tastes of the city. Even if you’re not hungry, take a walk through the narrow aisles and embrace the the sights (and smells, for sure) that so represents the diversity of Barcelona.
The main drag of Barcelona, La Ramla is filled to the brim with trendy restaurants, shops and street vendors. This tree-lined open air mall is a perfect place to stop for lunch before it’s consumed with mass amount of people for an evening dinner. Despite being busy year round, it is especially hectic during the tourist season during the summer. Make sure to keep your bags zippered and close to you since pick-pocketing is an ongoing concern in this area. Also look out for gentleman offering the women roses up and down the street. While it may seem like a gift, they are expecting a hefty fee after pushing the flowers into your hand. And don’t think you’re safe sitting at one of the outdoor tables, they feel more than comfortable joining you there (we got caught with this trick numerous times)!
Away fro, the beach life, the Gothic Quarter is a start contrast to board shorts and fruit drinks. As the center of the old city, you’ll witness these buildings from late 19th and early 20th century, with several buildings even dating back from medieval times. Luckily, most of the streets are closed to vehicle traffic so feel free to wander aimlessly through the narrow alleys and cobblestone walkways. Make sure you grab one of the sweet treats from the plethora of bakeries in the area!
While in the Gothic Quarter, the Picasso Museum is more than worth your time. Although I am not a huge museum buff, it was incredible to see hte progression of Picasso’s art from unbelievable realistic sketches to the obscure abstract paintings we’re so familiar with.
Museu de la Xocolata
If paintings aren’t really your jam, the Chocolate Museum is the best options for children and adults alike. While it is filled with chocolate structures emulating various characters and movie scenes as you might expect, it also includes the origins of chocolate and how its popularity came to be. Don’t worry, there’s some sampling involved.
With so much to explore within the city of Barcelona, it only makes sense to conclude your trip with a day relaxing on the beach. Surrounded by a board walk with numerous places to grab something to picnic on, the beaches are the ideal spot for taking in all the city has to offer…with a drink in your hand.
From the incredible history to the sparkling waters, Barcelona is a must see in Spain. Yet, I do feel the need to mention that there has been a lash back against tourists within the city. Just as when visiting any place, it’s extremely important to be respectful of the locals. You can do so my learning a few key phrases of the language (Catalon and Spanish are both widely spoken), caring for the properties that you visit, and interacting with the people in a manner that appreciates their culture.
We travel in order to embrace new ways and routines in life, not reject them for what we already know. Open your doors, and, we hope, they’ll open theirs.
What is your favorite city in Spain? Have you been to Barcelona? One more, how do you make sure you’re welcomed into a new city?